Chemistry X | Carbon and its Compounds | Combustion OF CARBON COMPOUNDS


In this section we will be studying about some of the chemical properties of carbon compounds. Since most of the fuels we use are either carbon or its compounds, we shall first study combustion.


Carbon, in all its allotropic forms, burns in oxygen to give carbon dioxide along with the release of heat and light. Most carbon compounds also release a large amount of heat and light on burning. These are the oxidation reactions that you learnt about in the first Chapter –

(i) C + O2 → CO2 + heat and light

(ii) CH4 + O2 → CO2 + H2O + heat and light

(iii) CH3CH2OH + O2 → CO2 + H2O + heat and light

Balance the latter two reactions like you learnt in the first Chapter.

Activity 4.3

CAUTION: This Activity needs the teacher’s assistance.

  1. Take some carbon compounds (naphthalene, camphor, alcohol) one by one on a spatula and burn them.
  2. Observe the nature of the flame and note whether smoke is produced.
  3. Place a metal plate above the flame. Is there a deposition on the plate in case of any of the compounds?

Activity 4.4

  1. Light a bunsen burner and adjust the air hole at the base to get different types of flames/presence of smoke.
  2. When do you get a yellow, sooty flame?
  3. When do you get a blue flame?

Saturated hydrocarbons will generally give a clean flame while unsaturated carbon compounds will give a yellow flame with lots of black smoke. This results in a sooty deposit on the metal plate in Activity 4.3. However, limiting the supply of air results in incomplete combustion of even saturated hydrocarbons giving a sooty flame. The gas/kerosene stove used at home has inlets for air so that a sufficiently oxygen-rich mixture is burnt to give a clean blue flame. If you observe the bottoms of cooking vessels getting blackened, it means that the air holes are blocked and fuel is getting wasted. Fuels such as coal and petroleum have some amount of nitrogen and sulphur in them. Their combustion results in the formation of oxides of sulphur and nitrogen which are major pollutants in the environment.

Why do substances burn with or without a flame?

Have you ever observed either a coal or a wood fire? If not, the next time you get a chance, take close note of what happens when the wood or coal starts to burn. You have seen above that a candle or the LPG in the gas stove burns with a flame. However, you will observe the coal or charcoal in an ‘angithi’ sometimes just glows red and gives out heat without a flame. This is because a flame is only produced when gaseous substances burn. When wood or charcoal is ignited, the volatile substances present vapourise and burn with a flame in the beginning.

A luminous flame is seen when the atoms of the gaseous substance are heated and start to glow. The colour produced by each element is a characteristic property of that element. Try and heat a copper wire in the flame of a gas stove and observe its colour. You have seen that incomplete combustion gives soot which is carbon. On this basis, what will you attribute the yellow colour of a candle flame to?

Formation of coal and petroleum

Coal and petroleum have been formed from biomass which has been subjected to various biological and geological processes. Coal is the remains of trees, ferns, and other plants that lived millions of years ago. These were crushed into the earth, perhaps by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. They were pressed down by layers of earth and rock. They slowly decayed into coal. Oil and gas are the remains of millions of tiny plants and animals that lived in the sea. When they died, their bodies sank to the sea bed and were covered by silt. Bacteria attacked the dead remains, turning them into oil and gas under the high pressures they were being subjected to. Meanwhile, the silt was slowly compressed into rock. The oil and gas seeped into the

porous parts of the rock, and got trapped like water in a sponge. Can you guess why coal and petroleum are called fossil fuels?

Activity 4.5

  1. Take about 3 mL of ethanol in a test tube and warm it gently in a water bath.
  2. Add a 5% solution of alkaline potassium permanganate drop by drop to this solution.
  3. Does the colour of potassium permanganate persist when it is added initially?
  4. Why does the colour of potassium permanganate not disappear when excess is added?

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